142. Allies (2)
“In any case…it looks like you’ve employed some underhanded tactics this time as well.”
Tom peeked over at Pygni, who was looking smug.
“The rebel army that’s rising in the Holy Kingdom, I suppose they could be called a revolutionary army in better terms. I’ve heard that they are shouting for the Pope to be overthrown by that new pagan church and that they worship the Demon Lord… Is that your work?”
King Paulie also turned toward Tom.
“I’ve also heard some rumors, something about a group of Necromancers using Spirit Magic leading them?”
Only one figure was related to both the Demons and Spirit Magic: the Apostle of the Demon Kingdom, Tom. Except for him, no one else had the ability.
Tom shook his head.
“I only support those who believe in me and follow me.”
“Aren’t you saying the same thing in some flowery words? We’re talking about an uprising that worships the Demon Lord. Also, the mere fact that they worship the Demon Lord is letting the continent know that this rebellion is incited by the Demon Kingdom.”
“That was also intentional.”
Although King Paulie looked puzzled, Pygni nodded and continued.
“I see. Then is this your warning to the continent?”
He was demonstrating that the Demon Kingdom’s influence was large enough to cause internal conflicts in its main enemy, the Holy Kingdom. Regardless of everything, the Holy Kingdom was crumbling apart, and for there to be a rebellion and a war…
All of this was enough to make the Holy Kingdom and its allies nervous. At the moment, they had the same thought: ‘Should we keep trying to hold on to the rotting lifeline that is the Holy Kingdom…?’ After all, when the Holy Kingdom fell, the Demons and the other nations could also invade them.
“But why are they proclaiming the Demon Lord as the messenger of god…? That makes no sense. It’s a good idea to use the revolutionary army…but why religion?”
“There’s nothing as effective as a religion to control humans.”
“So that’s why you created a religion? That the Demon Lord was chosen? God, they’re all falling for some pitiful religion without any scripture, texts, history, or tradition. Is that why cults are so scary?”
“They are that desperate.”
“I see. So, you exploited their need for someone to depend on?”
King Paulie looked admiring as Pygni simply rubbed his chubby cheek.
“If we use religion, it’s indeed possible to control people regardless of their number. More than anything, the Devil of Lania has what it takes to topple the Holy Kingdom and possesses both the destructiveness of Magic Power and the life-saving abilities of Holy Power. Because of this, he would appear omnipotent to the ordinary person. I’ve heard that he gave them Holy Water to gain their faith and maintain control over them…and it sounds plausible. He would appear like a god to me as well.”
Pygmy spoke as he peeked over at Tom.
“But the moment they think this faith is fake, it’s also easy for another rebellion to appear, similar to that of the Holy Kingdom. A whole different pagan faith could arise in Hell. They might scream for the expulsion of the devil and be wary of Demons again?”
“That’s entirely possible. Everything has an end. Isn’t the Holy Kingdom that appeared like it would endure throughout time is currently crumbling as well?”
King Paulie and Pygni both shut their mouths.
“As for how long that faith will last, won’t it depend on the one ruling them? The Holy Power retained its greatness for thousands of years, but didn’t it collapse once Salem became Pope?” Tom rose from his seat. “Now, it’s about time for me to start getting ready.”
“Ready for what…?”
Tom’s lips curled into a smile at Pygni’s question.
“The Holy Kingdom has devolved into chaos. There are revolts, riots, and intervention from other nations. The nations allied to the Holy Kingdom are showing movements of backing out before they, too, are betrayed. Now is the time to strike. Everything that they have taken…it’s time to take them back.”
“You’ve worked hard.”
Karakul greeted Tom as he stepped out of the meeting room. However, his lowered face became surprised upon seeing Tom.
Tom brought his hand to the strange sensation on his nose. ‘…Blood?’
On his hand was a bloodstain; his nose was bleeding. Tom brought his fingers to the bridge of his nose and began injecting Holy Power. The bleeding stopped, and there was no trace of an injury.
Tom remained silent, then smiled as though nothing had happened.
“My…it seems I’ve been working too hard?”
“…Do you get nosebleeds from working hard?”
“It happens to humans.”
“The current master is not human.”
“Is your body okay? I’m wondering if there’s anything wrong…”
Tom passed by Karakul. Ignoring his silence, Karakul followed behind him. He realized that Tom wasn’t interested in this conversation, so he changed the topic.
“The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers are swallowing up the neighboring lands, including all neutral nations. They are running wild like uncaged beasts. Those terrified countries are requesting help from us.”
Tom peeked over at Karakul.
“Running wild? The way I see it, it looks like bait to lure us in?”
“They are inciting us to make a move.”
“For Salem, it would be more normal for him to attack the Demon Kingdom or the Kingdom of Aylans. Us Demons are the sole reason that the Holy Kingdom has become so unstable, while the Kingdom of Aylans has Akareal. Due to Salem’s pride or obsession, he would have struck one of those two targets, but he’s splitting up his army to invade other nations, excluding us?” Tom’s lips curled. “Isn’t it like he’s taunting us, saying ‘try attacking?’”
Karakul looked at Tom.
“Then, we must answer him in kind. He’s purposely splitting up his men and opening up the road for us. How could we not appreciate his efforts? Also, the path leading us to the capital has already become more accessible due to the rebellion and riots. If we miss this chance, when would we get another? We will shine all the brighter if we take the Holy Kingdom down while they are running wild. Eliminating the evil of the continent that is sowing chaos and saving everyone, it’s almost like…a Hero from the myths. It almost sounds like you’re trying to create a religion for real.”
Karakul realized Tom’s intentions. The continent had made the Demons and the Demon Lord an evil that brought chaos to humanity. As such, the Holy Kingdom, who had slain the Demon Lord, rose up as the ruler of the continent. By killing the fearsome foe, they had proven their strength.
However, the roles were now reversed. The Holy Kingdom had become the devil, while the Demon Kingdom had become the savior. The evil Pope and the righteous Demon Lord. If the Demons managed to topple the Holy Kingdom, not only would their strength be acknowledged, but the right to rule this continent would also fall to the Demon Lord due to the newly formed religion. They would create a religion that would unify humanity, and Tom was thinking of using it to become the center of this continent.
“Inform Lily. We must prepare to invade the Holy Kingdom.”
“Her Majesty? Hasn’t the Allied Army been formed recently?”
“They are a defensive barrier, a shield that will protect us from the nations allied with the Holy Kingdom. We, as the sword, must strike at the Pope, Salem’s, neck.”
“…Understood. With Her Majesty’s command, I shall gather the soldiers. Regarding the time…”
“One month. It’s enough for the Kingdoms of Lome and Aylans to finish their preparations.”
Karakul lowered his head in acknowledgment and left. Tom headed toward his office. He sat in his seat, then slammed his head onto the table.
His head was growing fuzzy. His vision was blurry, and he couldn’t focus himself. His entire body felt numb and heavy like a water-logged sponge. Also, he couldn’t even put any strength in his hands. Tom knew full well what this implied.
‘Is it because of Aartark’s strength?’
Overwhelming power was, in turn, dangerous. The bowl might be large, but the amount it could contain was limited. The power of the Fragment of God, Arrtark, was too much for Tom to handle. Hence, the burden was taking a toll on his mental and physical aspects.
‘It’s getting dangerous…’ Tom rubbed his nose. ‘At this rate, it’ll be out of hands after doing it once or twice.’
He could invoke the power of Arrtark through death, but the constant death and rebirth were no different than defying the laws of the world itself. If Tom continued to die and be reborn…
‘What will be there at the end?’
Even the god who created the world, Arrtark, had tasted death. So, there was no way that a mere human who had inherited a Fragment of God would not die.
“Ungh, should I say that I’m rather indifferent…or that I am not afraid of it… It should be an unnecessary concern?”
He groaned while holding his forehead.
“My head is jumbled up. Should I sleep…?”
Tom closed his eyes.
“…It’s all going to be wrapped up soon anyway. If the Pope disappears, my goal will be accomplished.”
After a bit longer…
“Everything will be successful.”
How long had he slept for? Tom woke to the sound of someone humming and cleaning up. Once he straightened his body, a blanket hung over his shoulders slid down.
‘Did Lulu cover me?’
There was no one else that would clean up this office and pay it any mind other than the servant of the Demon Lord, Lulu. Tom opened his mouth to express his gratitude.
“…Thank you, Lulu.” When he turned around after speaking, he discovered Ellin, not Lulu, standing there. “…Ellin. What are you…?”
“Uh? Ah, that…cleaning? Anyway, you woke up?”
Ellin was holding books and documents in a clumsy posture as she awkwardly smiled. She then lightly replied to Tom while placing the books and documents on their shelves.
“Cleaning? Why are you cleaning, Ellin?”
Ellin, who was putting away the books and documents, crossed her arms and clenched her neck.
“Since the owner is leaving a mess and not cleaning up after himself, I’m cleaning in his stead. Be grateful.”
“I…I am grateful, but it’s normally Lulu who’s—”
“He should be tired. He’s serving Her Highness with Luli.”
“That is true. They serve Her Highness in the morning and me at ni—”
Ellin snickered before interrupting him.
“So let the kid rest.”
“Aren’t you also tired?”
“Well, it’s a bit embarrassing to say, but I don’t have anything else to do.”
Tom awkwardly laughed at Ellin’s response.
“If there’s nothing, you should find something. For someone with the title of Apostle, isn’t it wrong for them to just loiter around? That’s a part of the job description.”
Ellin was surprised and faked a cough.
“N-no, I’m not just playing around. I’m training the Doppelgangers.”
“…That’s going to be a mess.”
Hearing Tom’s honest reply, Ellin looked traumatized.
“What do you mean by a mess…!?”
“I heard from Halsem. It seems he had some trouble in the Kingdom of Lome. Besides, the Doppelgangers who haven’t received any training from you are doing their work without a mistake after they were deployed to various nations.”
“T-that is true, but…”
Ellin’s shoulders went limp. Seeing her response, Tom burst into laughter.
“In any case, I appreciate it. I was actually troubled that I hadn’t been cleaning up. I also felt bad just leaving it to Lulu every time…” Tom rose from his seat and started picking up the books and documents on the floor. “Anyway, it’s rather surprising to find you cleaning. It seems the sun is going to rise from the west.”
“I…I’m just trying to get a change of mood. My head is feeling troubled.”
“Your head is feeling troubled? Is there some kind of concern…?”
Under Tom’s gaze, she laughed awkwardly and shook her head.
“…Is that so?”
‘It’s a lie.’
However, since she didn’t want to say it, he couldn’t force it out of her. As he tried to place the books and documents into their shelves, he tilted his head.
“In any case, I cleaned up quite well, right? What should I do for you next? Ah, you looked tired, so should I get you some tea? Hm?” Ellin spoke with a smile, feeling happy for some reason, but Tom only sighed.
“This…you just shoved them in wherever you could. We have to pull them back out and sort them before cleaning.”
— Ω —